(Refiles to add MILAN dateline)
SAO PAULO/MILAN, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia is not currently interested in purchasing Oi SA due to the Brazilian telecommunications carrier’s heavy debt with regulators, Telecom Italia Chief Executive Flavio Cattaneo told newspaper Valor Econômico.
Oi owes 20 billion reais ($6.2 billion) in fines, nearly equal to the market value of Telecom Italia’s Brazilian subsidiary TIM Participações SA.
That means Telecom Italia has no interest in its Brazilian rival even in the case of a debt refinancing, Valor quoted Cattaneo as saying. “If Oi manages to split its debt from its assets...we will be watching,” he added.
A press representative for Telecom Italia confirmed Cattaneo’s comments. Press representatives for TIM were not immediately available to comment on the interview.
The byproduct of a government-sponsored merger at the end of last decade, Oi, Brazil’s No. 4 wireless carrier, succumbed to a heavy debt burden, mounting competition and years of shareholder disputes.
Nevertheless, preferred shares in Oi have risen 44 percent so far this year after touching a record low on June 21, a day after the carrier filed for creditor protection.
Common shares in TIM rose 25 percent in 2016 on the São Paulo stock exchange, while Telecom Italia shares fell 36 percent in the period.
Cattaneo took over as chief executive in April and has promised to step up cost cutting to boost profitability at the heavily indebted former state phone monopoly.
$1 = 3.22 reais Reporting by Bruno Federowski and Stefano Rebaudo; Editing by Susan Thomas